Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Blue Danube

Here is a compilation of video and stills from our recent trip to Central Europe.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Infant of Prague

Prague is a city flooded with Saints old and new. The walk across Charles Bridge is a Saint lovers paradise. Old friends like St. Anthony (still carrying my gradebook) and St. Christopher (still recognizable after years on my dashboard) are there as are new ones like St. John of Nepomuk. Now there's an interesting story. Apparently St. John was confessor to the Queen and when the King (Wencelaus ... apparently not the "good" one ...) ordered St. John to tell him what the Queen had confessed, he refused and was tossed into the river to drown. There is a little relief underneath his statue in brass that shows him being heaved over the bridge, and everyone touches it for good luck as they pass by. But the real homecoming for me, was when I saw my first Infant of Prague in a store window. I was flooded with memories from my childhood of receiving my first statue as a girl for my birthday. Never had a Barbie. Didn't need one when I had my Infant of Prague to dress up in its vestments.

Seriously I had not thought about this Infant of Prague for 50 years. I had never actually put Prague the city together with Prague of the Infant. So I decided to read up on it. And that is when I found "Ask Sister Mary Martha" the blog. What a blessed oasis she is.

And you can imagine my surprise when I looked up the going price for a set of vestments for the infant. Check it out.

Some Panoramics

Old Town Square in Prague
Chesky Krumlov from the Castle
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The Dark Side of Velvet

This statue of Franz Kafka in a hidden corner of Prague's Stare Mesto always collects a few puzzled tourists. It is a reminder that the Central European mindset is much more comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. Life is not as it seems. Shifting ground ... not certainty ... is what we stand on. So as an American in Prague on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, I was happy to have the opportunity to have some oral histories made available to me to help me see below the surface of the current mood of celebrating the triumph of liberty over totalitarianism. The Memory of a Nation is an extensive collection of memories of individuals who lived through and were buffeted by the totalitarianism and fascism of the 20th century. Many of these stories have been mounted on huge poster boards throughout Prague. I found myself sucked into these narratives trying to understand better the complicated business of what it meant to be Czech in the 20th century. For example, the story of this man, A Jewish professor of history in Prague, who passed as a Gentile during the war, shows many layers of Czech life in the last century. He moved boldly among German soldiers during the war saying "It is always darkest just beneath the candle's flame," but was betrayed in the late days of the War and survived several concentration camps. In the post war years he supported the dissidents in 1968 and had his teaching job taken from him. He was reinstated to that post after 1989. Or the story of this man, Olbram Zoubek, the sculptor, who made the death mask of Jan Palach before he died in the hospital following his self immolation Wencheslas Square in 1969. This death mask was only put on display AFTER the 1989 Velvet Revolution. There were also stories of those on the other side ... the members of the Czech Army who enforced the Soviet takeover of their country. Often their stories began in the disputed regions of Czechoslovakia, Carpathian Ruthenia, that were given over to the Hungarians in the early days of WW II. Thinking that retreat in the USSR would allow them more safety, they migrated to Ukraine only to find themselves thrown into Soviet work camps. When they were offered freedom by joining the Czech Army on the Allied side in the middle of the war, they accepted and found themsleves part of the Soviet apparatus after the war.

And even with all of these stories laid out to read, there is no way as an outsider to know what the Czechs themselves carry within them of those conflicted times. Many of the MOST idealistic are now the most disheartened and disilluioned. Life is not what it seems.

As we walk across the Charles Bridge later in the week I see a sign "Kafka Museum Open" Perhaps it is closed.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


We arrived in the Hungarian Capital last Saturday morning. Our first stop was the Covered Market. I was struck by the diminutive size of their garlic and by the presence of tete de veau in the meat counters. But generally speaking food is food. I did pick up an important tip for cooking with paprika. The paprika must be melded with the oil you are cooking with ... you cannot add it as a simple seasoning at the end.

Pest is best seen from the hills of Buda and Buda best seen from the shores of Pest. The Parliament building is simply stunning especially at night. Most of our time in the city it rained, but the rain could not dampen the impression of this Baroque wonder of a city. After spending so much time in cities with medieval street patterns I was not prepared for the wide avenues and generous squares. I was particularly taken by the baroque interiors of the churches. This is the Church of St. Stephen the Hungarian king (St. Istvan) who brought the country to Christianity at the turn of the last millenium ... 1038 was it? The interior pictures I have are on my flip video unfortunately, so I will include them later. But I must say the thrill of finding a new saint was outdone by the thrill of encountering a new highpoint in Catholic reliquary.

Normally if a church is lucky enough to have a relic from a saint, it is the mere splinter of the saint's bone. Not so with St. Istvan. For him we have an ENTIRE RIGHT HAND. (The Holy Right as it is referred to) You think I'm kidding?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Seeing to remember

I am a little frustrated in these postings because the pictures are not as easy to post as they should be. So I will post pictures a little later when things are not so slow. For now let me just say a few words about my impressions. Each town we have stopped at has an almost iconic look to it. The round towers of the castle at Nurmberg ... the Old Stone Bridge spanning the Danube at Regensburg with the spires of St. Peter's in the background ...the onion hats on the steeples in Cesky Krumlov ... a cup of Viennese coffee. And as I had wanted to paint a watercolor of each of these stops, I have been looking carefully each day for that perfect sketch ... the one that says "This is Vienna !!!" "This is Regensberg !!!"

So the looking with an eye to remembering on paper has been an added dimension to this trip. And now that we are leaving the river Danube and moving into the cities of Budapest and then Prague, I think my eye will turn to smaller things to capture. It is hard to imagine that in the past if one wanted to remember where they had been, the paint set was all they had. I have watched many travelers ont his trip using video cameras ALL THE TIME and talking into them to name the things they are seeing.

It reminds me of the practice of a woman in a book I am reading, who sends herself postcards from places she has visited. Only on these postcards she writes about the feeling she is having in the excitement of the new place .... about the way the place renews her. I like that.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


90% destroyed by Allied forces in WWII, the old part of Nuremburg was faithfully restored to its medieval footprint in the years following the war. The town feels old even if it technically is not. We learned very early in our stay in Nurmeberg that these people, though technically Bavarian, consider themselves Franconian. Red and white Frankische colors, not the blue and white of Bavaria, dominate the landscape. We tasted some of the local cuisine … round potato dumplings and the walkaway wurst bun of three sausages.

The skyline is dominated by the spires of Saint Sebaldus church. Always in the market for a new Saint, I found it hard to get the straight skinny on St. Sebaldus. Some legends have him as a hermit in the nearby Reichswald, others as a student in Paris who married a French princess only to abandon her on their wedding night to make a pilgrimage to Rome. Moreover his DOB varies by centuries ... how can this be, I wonder.

I think this is a back shelf saint.

[note: it has been 2 days trying to post this while shipboard ... the pictures may have to wait for a broader band of internet.]

Soon to follow Regensberg ... Passau ... Chesky Krumlov ... Linz ... Melk and tonight Vienna.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Vienna - Budapest - Prague

I do not know whether I will be able to post or not ... but here is a picture of our travel plans. We depart tonight for Nuremburg, Germany where we will board a river boat to cruise down the Danube. We arrive in Budapest the following SUnday and then take a train to Prague mid-week. I am sure there will be tales to tell.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Wrap Up

click to enlarge
Our last day of skiing at Breckenridge was more than a week ago. It was a WARM sunny day ... truly a perfect send off that left us wanting more. As you can see from the final tally below, we did NOT ski as relentlessly as we might have over the month. I tried to time my days off with the weather, choosing warm sunny days over cold snowy ones. Hunter went out in all conditions and made the most of it in conditions I would have abandoned after one run.

The other experiment in this journey was our equipment package. We both have our own boots. Hunter had an old pair of bright pink Lange's refitted two seasons ago up in Stowe and I graduated that same season from a pair of vice grip Saloman's (the ones that buckle from behind?) to a sweet pair of Nordicas that after a week start to feel like bedroom slippers. But we do not have new skis. So we arrranged for a season;s rental arrangement. Hunter bought a "performance demo" package and I a "sport" package. This meant that we could try as many different kinds of skis the shop had within the package we had bought. In the end Hunter settled on a pair of Voekl AC 30's and I was very happy with my Saloman X-wings. Hunter was so happy, in fact, that he came home and bought a pair.

What I loved about this package was that you could try different skis in different conditions at different lengths and learn some thing about what suited you best. While I am not THAT sensitive to different skis, Hunter learned enough to be able to decide what to buy. AND because of the package, we did not have to worry about returning the skis on days we chose to rest.

So here are the final stats

Column1 DAYS RUNS Cost per day Cost per run
Hunter 22 152 $ 26.32 $ 3.81
Leslie 18 86 $ 32.17 $ 6.73

Had we purchased the tickets full price each day, my cost perday would have been $90 perday and Hunter's $80.50 perday.

And as for the ski rental ... my price with the pass was $13 per day and Hunter's $16.50.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What he skied

Nearing the End

So today, our next to last day, Hunter ventured over to Imperial Lift and landed at the top of the highest lift in North America.

Having learned that this was the highest lift in North America, I HAD to know where THE highest lift was. Who would have thought BOLIVIA? For a list, check here.

And SOME want to go even higher !!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New Terrain

Mardi Gras on the Mountain

Epic Proportions Update

So at the end of week three, here are the stats

Column1 DAYS RUNS Cost per day Cost per run
Hunter 16 118 $ 36.19 $ 4.91
Leslie 14 69 $ 41.36 $ 8.39

Had we been purchasing at the window each day out cost per day would be

Leslie: $89.57
Hunter: $79.88

And the longer we ski the reater the difference will become.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Panoramic to the South

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Panoramic to the North

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Returning to a theme

It seems that the chatter in my head has stilled. At the beginning of the trip it was ... "Oh I can barely breathe up here, HOW am I supposed to ski?" OR "My thighs are burning, my boots are too tight (too lose)" AND "Maybe later in the trip this will feel better and I will be able to enjoy it more."

Well that day is officially here. Skiing is a natural form of locomotion for me now. My boots feel like bedroom slippers. I love moving around the world this way in all this breathtaking scenery. So I am "in the moment" more now than I was when I started. It is a wonderful way to be. I suppose the real challenge is to be able to be in the moment even when I am not enjoying the moment. But for now I am happy to be at the place that allows for maximum ease out thereon the slopes.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sunshine in China Bowl

click to enlarge

Doing what comes naturally

I don't know what it is a about skiing at Vail, but I always get a high from skiing there. Several factors could come into play. One is I usually rest a day before I go there. Second, we choose a day we know will be bright and sunny. And maybe, just maybe the lower altitude makes a difference. But there is some thing else ... and I think it has to do with Vail's size. When I am at Vail I feel as though I am skiing TO somewhere. "Let's ski over to mid Vail for lunch" ... "Let's ski over to China bowl and enjoy the sunshine." On other mountains I feel as though I am just skiing runs. Moreover, Vail is well designed enough that the moving across the mountain does not always involve the boring catwalks that other mountains employ.

So we arrived early this morning ... me with fresh legs, and the sun was shining ... It was just spectacular ... AGAIN. We were in China Bowl in bright sun ... and on our second run went into the trees and did some glade skiing. It was all pretty wonderful ... until ...

... the clouds came in and the wind blew up ... but the first part was really pretty wonderful. And I noticed something new out there today. This is going to be a little hard to describe, so bear with me. But I had this feeling on my skis today that I wasn't so much skiing as I was engaging in a natural form of locomotion. I am no longer working at skiing ... I am simply moving around on skis. Does that make sense? It is maybe like the way a bird feels when it naturally turns its body to take advantage of the wind circling at high levels ... only instead of the wind I am turning my body to take advantage of gravity in a natural way without really thinking about it.

So maybe this feeling is what I came here for?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


So we have passed the midway point in this odyssey ... a few observations. First there are the rhythms of daily life. We have been pretty lazy in our mornings. We are usually skiing between 11 and 12. It is nice to spend at least part of each day in the out of doors looking at some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. My day on the slopes usually though not always ends before Hunter's, and I either go home and he takes the bus or I wait at the bottom for him to get those last few runs out of his system. Whenever it ends for me, I get home and immediately hop in a hot shower and take a nap while Hunter does his work. The time between 4 & 6 has been very productive for him. Then it's dinner by 7 and in bed before 9. We have been sleeping 9 -10 hours a night.

Then there is our skiing. We took a lesson mid-week last week and have another one scheduled tomorrow. The sticker price on these lessons was pretty much shock and awe. We mentioned this to a waitress in Dillon one night and she grinned and said she was a ski instructor at A-Basin and would happily take us on. A-Basin chargers a quarter the price for a private lesson than the other areas. So we had an excellent two hour lesson together last week on fundamentals. We then worked out that we would meet her privately at a different mountain on her day off and each work with her privately for 2 hours.

I must say this work on fundamentals has done me tremendous good. Much of the work I needed to do was in upper body work ... all about staying pointed downhill. She gave us a few simple images that really made a difference. We even did a little work in the bumps and the translation of the fundamentals into the bumps made a real difference ... but by then my legs were rubber bands.

Here is a short clip of Hunter.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Epic Proportions Update

Here is an update on the ever increasing value of our Epic Pass.
Column1 DAYS RUNS Cost per day Cost per run
Hunter 9 71 $ 64.33 $ 8.15
Leslie 9 43 $ 64.33 $ 13.47

Downtown Frisco

Main Street Frisco, CO today
Main Street Frisco 1890

We took a day off from skiing last Saturday and puttered around the town of Frisco. There is a little historical park off Main Street that has become a collection site for some of the town's historic properties. First thing that strikes a New Englander is how YOUNG this town is. Folks were showing up here just about the time the Civil War was heating up. Here are some pictures of the old town Jail.But I was intrigued by this little cottage built in 1931 by the Niemoth family from Denver. It seems that as the area began losing population in post WWI era, the local dairy farmer out at Bill's Ranch came up with a scheme to lure population back to Frisco from the big cities like Denver. He offered families free land on which to build their summer cottages if they would in turn buy milk from his dairy cows. Apparently his plan to bring the market to the milk instead of the milk to the market worked ... for awhile anyway.And I do not wish to be a history geek here, but I was really taken with this ballot from 1896. It seems EVERY party wanted a piece of William Jennings Bryan that year. I guess if you wanted to know the power of free silver in the politics of the day, Frisco, CO was as good a perch as any to view it from.(Note: 6 of the parties on this ballot claimed William Jennings Bryan as their candidate in 1896.)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Spectacular Day Skiing

Yesterday was simply majestic. We started out a little after 8:30 under a bright sunny sky. The views along Vail Pass were in themselves breathtaking.

We had a little trouble negotiating the free parking at Vail. Instead of being one big lot on the outskirts of town it is a warren of little 6 or 18 space spots sprinkled along the frontage road very vaguely marked. So after wasting 30 minutes trying to find one that had space we surrendered to the pay parking ($25/day OUCH!) at Lionshead.

But it is the best $25 for a day of entertainment that I have ever spent. Vail takes alot of grief out here (especially in Summit County) for being too big too crowded just too too. But all that said, it is still ... on a sunny day ... the most fun place to ski I can imagine. With 5,000+ acres of skiable terrain and 193 runs there is little reason to spend any time complaining.

I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Suffice it to say it was a PERFECT day of skiing.
looking up Showboat from the bottom of Game Creek BowlAnd some panoramic pics too!!Mid Vail at lunch time (click to enlarge)
Top of Wildwood looking over BluSky Basin

A little hint about panoramics. If you have not tried it yet, go to Autostitch and download their free tool. It is amazing.